At the time, Rangers GM Phil Esposito was approached by Oliers GM Glen Sather about acquiring Gretzky but Esposito said that the price was too high.
Esposito said in 2011 that Edmonton and the Rangers had agreed on the players who would be sent to Edmonton for Gretzky:
- Tomas Sandstrom, Kelly Kisio and John Vanbiesbrouck.
In an interview with the CBC at the time, sports writer Roy Macgregor said, "I don't think he went to the right team. If the NHL wanted to engineer it the way the WHA did with Bobby Hull then they should have sent him to New York where it does matter and the fans know hockey. The intensity would be a lot higher and where Wayne would respond. We won't be reading about Wayne Gretzky in The Hockey News anymore, we will read about him in the National Enquirer. He is history and a tragedy now."
Don Cherry then added, "I sure would have liked to have seen him go to New York."